Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

JK 2017

Monday, April 17th, 2017

We spent most of the Easter weekend south of London orienteering at the JK. We didn’t go to the sprint on Friday (quite frankly, it didn’t seem worth the high entry fee) so our first event was the medium race on Saturday on Ambersham Common. Christine went out first and had a respectable run finishing third on W40. I amused the children with the string course before we walked Emma to the start for her first W10B course. Unfortunately she took a wrong turn and missed out a control, something that Duncan didn’t repeat when he then ran the white course with Christine in tow (it was the same course as Emma’s). I had a scrappy start to my run, wasting a good couple of minutes on #7. Roger Goddard gave me a tow for a while until Geoff Ellis took him away. 12th place was set to become a recurring theme for the weekend.

Part of the draw for the weekend was a chance to catch up with friends over from the Czech Republic and we had a nice meal on the Saturday night. Sunday was the classic distance race and I had a long trek over to my start in St Leonard’s Forest. No major blunders this time but I don’t have the speed in the rough terrain as the course wound its way back on to the Holmbush map and I finished… 11th but still 12th over the two days! Emma took another wrong turn on her course but recovered successfully this time. She was still beaten by Duncan though who went out on his first course unaccompanied. Christine had another successful day in the forest and we stayed to watch her collect her 3rd prize.

There was just a string course for the children on Monday and Christine and I made up either end of a Men’s Short team. I was off first and was pleased to discover there were only seven finishers in front of me with second place under 90 seconds ahead. Dan put in a sterling effort for his first relay, holding on to 8th place. After Christine’s run we finished a respectable… 12th.

It was a fun weekend of orienteering and, probably most importantly, the children seemed to have enjoyed themselves and are looking forward to our summer orienteering holiday.

Barcelona Break

Monday, October 31st, 2016

BarcelonaIn general, we’re not very good at combining business trips with pleasure but at half term I was due to be in a conference in Madrid for the latter part of the week and Christine was about to start a new collaboration based in Barcelona so we decided to take the children over to Spain for a few days. Things didn’t get off to a great start with a three-hour delay on our Easyjet flight to Barcelona. To be fair, they did let us know of the delay before we left home and thankfully we’d already made arrangements for late arrival at our apartment.

On Sunday we took the metro to the Sagrada Familia, only to discover that it was sold out for the day. We therefore slowly made our way to Park Güell where we had booked in advance for a late afternoon entrance. Christine went off to the University on Monday whilst the children and I headed to the beach. Unfortunately you could barely see the beach for the mist, let alone the cable car across the harbour that we were intending to take. Luckily, as we waited to board the cable car the mist started to clear and by the time we arrived at Montjuïc the sun was out in force.

We spent some time in the Fort which became quite atmospheric when the mist rolled in again off the sea. Our walk down Plaza d’Espanya was cut short when Duncan failed to clear the large muddy puddle at the bottom of a very steep slide!

Christine was working again on Tuesday. Sadly the mist had turned to drizzle and I headed to the Museu Blau with the children (located dangerously close to the OpenStack summit that was kicking off that day!). For a very modern natural history museum, it seem to specialise in glass cases with large numbers of exhibits in them which wasn’t particularly child friendly. The visit was saved by the temporary National Geographic Spinosaurus exhibition.

In the afternoon, we headed back to the Sagrada Familia having booked our tickets in advance this time. The cathedral has gained a very impressive ceiling since I last entered the building about 10 years ago. Although the rain had stopped by this point, unfortunately the damp conditions meant that we weren’t permitted to ascend the towers.

Having handed the children over to Christine on a metro platform, I took the fast train to Madrid, arriving just in time for the speaker dinner. The rest of the family flew back to the UK the following morning.

Running Weekend

Sunday, October 16th, 2016

Christine XCIt’s been a weekend for running. On Saturday Christine ran at the first of this year’s Hampshire Cross-Country races at Farley Mount. I didn’t feel 100% when I woke up so decided to save myself for Sunday. Although I felt much better by the time the races came round it was probably still a wise decision (not least to reserve some energy for a barn dance in the evening!).

StringerOn Sunday it was Totton RC’s Stinger which meant a return to Ocknell. It had been raining heavily during the night and it was still going as we drove to the event. The sun had come out by the start so, although wet underfoot, it was actually quite warm.

Ocknell MudI was slightly alarmed to be in the lead for the first couple of miles but around the three mile mark, three runners made a move (although I’m puzzled because the results that were posted suggest four). Most of the next four miles were spent racing around the gravel tracks in the Inclosure. The first two runners started to pull away and I had to work hard to stay in contact with the third placed runner (or was it fourth?!). I started to make some ground as we left the tracks and worked our way back along the edge of the Inclosure but didn’t have the energy left to haul him in on the final climb up towards the finish (the sting).

Christine, meanwhile, had take the children for a walk through a marsh which meant they were covered in almost as much mud as me!

Elevation Profile
Speed Profile
20161016 Stinger

Ocknell Orienteering

Monday, October 10th, 2016

Saturday saw our second orienteering outing of the season, SOC’s event at Ocknell. We were running the children’s activity which, as it involved finding a randomly scattered selection of controls, didn’t involve too much in the preparation but seemed to be enjoyed by the kids nevertheless. My apologies go to the little girl who turned up at the end when we’d run out of prizes!

Pete Davis had put on an excellent set of courses – it’s just a shame there weren’t more people there to enjoy them. I ran the brown and, despite knowing the area well, still made a few errors of judgement. As RouteGadget shows, it took me a couple of controls to realise that straight was almost always best and, as 13 and 14 show, you have to be careful in amongst the gorse bushes around the old runway. Although the November Classic is on an adjacent area, sadly I don’t think these lessons will really help there!

Duncan @ 7

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

Coco @ Duncan's BirthdayI’ve been telling people that my children are seven and nine for some months now but Duncan has now actually reached the first of these milestones. His party was this weekend and, having spent the past month or so engrossed in Asterix books, that was the theme of his party (despite most of his friends having no idea who Asterix is!). The class teddy was brought to the party and is featured here in his Obelix plaits. The other attendees seemed to prefer the lively party games that Christine had contrived, from hunt the Roman to newspaper snowball fights and stuffing the balloons in to Obelix’s XL thermal tights!

Duncan @ 7Shield CakeWhilst the internet is full of Asterix themed birthday cakes, I wasn’t keen to embark on the necessary sugar craft to recreate any of the characters. We eventually settled on a Roman shield – a job made easier by large quantities of coloured icing. We got away with just one cake this year as it was sufficiently large to last the couple of days until his actual birthday!

Duncan opening presentsDuncan’s doesn’t like to set his sights low and suggested two ideas for presents: a drone and a metal detector. He actually ended up with two of the latter although I don’t think either is going to allow him to find any Roman hoard. The drone was also probably not what he was expecting as it’s all of 2-inches across. First attempts suggest that there’s certainly some skill (that neither of us possessed) required to fly it!

Start of the season

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

Emma and Duncan at the finishThe orienteering season got under way for us yesterday with a SOC event on an area called Salisbury Trench (east of Janesmoor Pond). Christine was saving herself for the Hursley 10K on Sunday so just took the children round the yellow course. (Actually, the children plus the pictured bear which Duncan has on loan from school as ‘Star of the Week’. It’s slightly concerning that he’s been awarded this in only the second week of the school year as normally it seems to go to those in need of some encouragement at school! Anyway, I digress…)

I went round the blue course which was quite fun, particularly given that the paths had been (deliberately) left off the map. The bracken needs a little longer to die off properly but the area was still pretty runnable although, as Pete Bray demonstrated later in the day, it was actually runnable at a lot faster pace than I was doing! The controls had been hung fairly high for which I was grateful as my compass-work was a little rusty. My ankle was also playing up a bit – a reminder not to get too carried away. The one event a month that SOC puts on is about the right frequency without having to stray further afield.

Summer Holidays: Act Three

Monday, September 5th, 2016

This final instalment is mostly taken up with our actual summer holiday. Taking a holiday in Britain at the end of August can sometimes be testing the definition of summer and, as we set off for Pembrokeshire, we were heading in to gale force winds. To be fair, this kept the roads fairly empty and, when we arrived at Broad Haven, meant there were some impressive waves breaking against the sea wall. We were staying in a ‘lodge’ at the same place we’d stayed six years earlier when Duncan would have been about 9 months old.

St David's CathedralSurfBy the following day, the wind had died down enough that Christine and the children could test out their new wetsuits body boarding in the sea. Unfortunately the rain returned before too long and we had to test out the selection of board games in the lodge. Things weren’t much better the following day and we tested out the swimming pool in Haverfordwest before taking a trip to St David’s for a look round the cathedral.

Pembroke CastleEmma body boardingThe sun finally made itself felt after that and we spent two pleasant days at the beach. Duncan has thankfully learnt not to eat sand in the intervening years! On another day we visited the privately owned Pembroke Castle which was a trip down memory lane for me having been there during a junior school trip to Tenby. We fell in on a guided tour where there was a good selection of gruesome stories to entertain the children. It was also, slightly randomly, circus skills day, and the children greatly enjoyed the Punch and Judy show.

Marloes PeninsulaSealsWe also revisited Martin’s Haven where the martins are still in residence in the toilets! We debated a trip to Skomer Island but it was too late in the year to see puffins. Instead we just wandered the cliff top path, looking down on the seals and their newborn pups below.

Llyn IdwalAs with our last trip to Pembrokeshire, it was followed by a drive up to north Wales. In an unfortunate reoccurrence, Emma was once again car sick on that journey. We stayed a couple of nights in Caernarfon to be close to Christine’s cousin and extended family who were staying on Anglesey. We took the children for a walk round Llyn Idwal which was unfortunately shrouded in damp mist. Christine and her cousin did a run/walk up to the Glyders and such was the visibility that they managed to descend on the wrong side of Tryfan!

Dave in the seaNewboroughIn contrast, we had glorious sunshine for the following day’s visit to Newborough Sands, scene of the British Orienteering Champs in 1995. While the others set off along the beach to the island (at least it’s an island at high tides) I had a run round the 10K+ Commonwealth Trail Champs route which is signposted.

We relocated to Bryn Gwynant Youth Hostel for the next couple of nights but met up with Cath and family again at Pen-y-Pass for an assault on Snowdon. Thankfully, unlike our last Snowdontrip along the Miner’s Track, no running buggies or baby carriers were required and this time the children made it all the way to the summit of Snowdon. Unfortunately the cloud never lifted as forecast and it was pretty miserable on top, not helped by the café being closed and Emma was heartbroken that she wouldn’t be able to spend any money in the shop! We descended back down the tourist track in to Llanberis for the traditional refuelling at Pete’s Eats.

Wilderhope ManorChristine had a grant interview in Swindon on the Thursday so we departed Wales and spent a night in the rather grand YHA Wilderhope Manor on Wenlock Edge. The stay was even more grand for the fact that our ‘en-suite room’ turned out to be the bridal suite! The mere presence of a bridal suite is a good indication of why we have never been able to book a room here at the weekend when orienteering in Shropshire.

Whilst Christine attended her interview, we amused ourselves at the nearby STEAM Museum of the Great Western Railway. It was billed as being an excellent way to pass STEAMa few hours and so it proved to be. There were a relatively small number of locomotives on display but this meant there was plenty of space to stand back and appreciate them. There were also lots of diversion for the children which meant that I could actually read some of the material on display. I hadn’t appreciated the extent to which Swindon owed its existence, or at least size, to the presence of the railway.

Paultons ParkThat brought us back home but, with Christine working a weekend open day at the University, I still had some child-minding to do and we decided to tick one more item of the children’s bucket list for the summer: a return trip to Paultons Park. The answer I posed at the end of my last blog post on this subject was 5 years, although Emma has managed a trip there with school in the interim. The children’s tastes have certainly matured and we only had one ride in Peppa Pig World (although this was possibly my worst with Duncan attempting to spin our cabin as fast as he could!). Thankfully the queues are somewhat shorter in other parts of the park, including the new rides in the Lost Kingdom. Emma demurred at some of the rides but this only spurred Duncan on and sadly he was the one who still needs to be accompanied by an adult on many of them! In the end, Emma caved in and joined us on everything. The only ride we didn’t do (although Duncan was definitely eyeing it up) was the Edge.

Summer Holidays: Act Two

Saturday, August 20th, 2016

Dyrham ParkWe returned to pick the children up from Monmouth the following weekend, stopping off at Dyrham Park on the way back. Quite apart from it being a convenient place just off the M4 to stop for lunch, the children had last been there when the roof was in the process of being replaced following a fire and were keen to see how it now looked. The scaffolding that they had previously ascended to look down on the roof was all gone and, at least externally, the property was once again looking in fine form.

Emma runningChristine and Duncan runningOn the Sunday Christine took Emma along to the Junior parkrun in Southampton. Emma must have enjoyed it as she was persuaded out their again the following weekend where, despite getting a lower place, she managed to beat her previous time. Duncan also decided that he would go round this time with Christine. Thankfully he managed to maintain a respectful distance behind is older sister! All of this now means that I’m the only one in the family never to have run a parkrun despite being the first to register for a barcode! Duncan climbingI ran home whilst Christine and the children went to investigate what turned out to be an open day at Woodmill Outdoor Activities Centre. This gave them a chance to test out their climbing skills yet again.

Spinnaker TowerChristine and I took it in turns to mind the children the following week. I took them down to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard on the train for one day. We went up the Spinnaker Tower first which, to be honest, was a bit of a let down. Other than a view out over the Solent to the Isle of Wight there really just isn’t much to see. There was quite some queue to get in to the dockyard itself but we can return on our ticket at any point during the next year and won’t have to suffer the queue again. After a stop for lunch we headed over to see the Mary Rose in her new dry state. Mary RoseIt’s very well done with the skeletal remains of the one half of the ship on one side and the retrieved contents was laid out on the other in decks as it would have been found on the ship. Unfortunately I think the sheer age of the ship and the remarkableness of the fact that any of it actually remains today was lost on the children.

HMS WarriorEmma had been to see HMS Victory before with school and Duncan will go this year so we then took a look around HMS Warrior. Despite the fact that pretty much only the shell is original, the children still got much more out of out this. Later in the week we took a trip out to Mottisfont to check out the Beatrix Potter trail. On what was a sunny day, it was absolutely heaving and I think the children may finally be starting to outgrow some of the activities (although not the ice cream at the end!).

Howzat!Excitement for the following weekend consisted of a trip to the Ageas Bowl, this time to watch women’s Twenty20 cricket. It was every bit as exciting as the men’s game and the home side of the brightly clad Southern Vipers played a convincing victory over Loughborough Lightning. It was then back to work for Christine and I with the children attending summer camp at their school for the next week.